The Final Black & Bold: An Interview with Makiyah Moody
After five and a half years with La Piana Consulting, Makiyah concludes her time (for now) with the firm on June 30th, 2021. In this final installment of Black & Bold, she reflects on career milestones and decision points that shaped her journey.
Crafty. Compassionate. Connector.
What are some of your career highlights?
Prior to graduate school in Chicago, I was a civil rights investigator with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. As a tester, I was matched with Jen, my white partner, and we applied for retail jobs across the Chicagoland area. As the Black tester, I had more supervisory experience and more experience overall, so based on merit, it would go that I was offered more jobs. That was not the case. Sometimes I would arrive at a store to interview and be told that the position was filled. Two hours later when Jen arrived, she would receive an interview for the “filled” position. The experience was revelatory and confirmed how frequent racial discrimination happens in employment and how challenging it is to hold anyone accountable.
For fifteen years after graduate school, I worked in the education reform space at Leadership for Quality Education, KIPP, KIPP LEAD, Leading Educators, and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools. KIPP hosted an annual conference called KIPP School Summit (KSS) to celebrate and convene the thousands of teachers, leaders, board members, staff, and partners from across the country. It was a big party that I had the pleasure of planning from banquet event orders to workshop curation. A highlight during KSS 2007 in New Orleans was escorting Common to his workshop and coordinating a service day for the city given that Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc.
I joined La Piana Consulting in February 2016 and over the last five and half years, I have been blessed to collaborate with mission-focused organizations – both foundations and nonprofits – to “build an America as good as its ideals.” (Shout out to The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.) I’ve been able to do a bit of everything from tag teaming with organizational leaders to advance strategic planning, facilitating mergers, developing business plans, energizing boards, and strengthening organizational culture.
As I reflect on my greatest accomplishments beyond working with changemaking clients, Black & Bold: Perspectives on Leadership takes center stage. In February 2018, a simple idea emerged: to interview Black women leading nonprofits and foundations to mine their insights and wisdom as a gift to other Black women making their way in the world. Curating this series fueled me on my own path to loving my Blackness and becoming bolder in who I am. I extend immense gratitude to each phenomenal woman who gifted me (and readers and listeners) their time, wisdom, laughter, and advice. I’m appreciative that the firm saw fit to affirm, promote, and elevate the experiences of Black women who are their ancestors’ wildest dreams with ample space on the website. Though the series is culminating, I am certain the series will continue to inspire, motivate, and encourage.
If there was a headline for your leadership journey throughout your career, what would it be?
“Be still and know.” This is from Psalm 46:10: “Be still and know that I am God,” which represents God’s fingerprints all over my life. I had no idea as a student at Wheaton College (in MA) who wanted to study international business and travel the world that I would end up traveling the United States to partner with organizations trying to solve gnarly problems. But God knew. I also wouldn’t have predicted that I would return to my home state of New Hampshire after enjoying all the diversity, music, and food that New Orleans and Chicago had to offer me. But God knew. This scripture reminds me to get still and to trust the process.
What are your favorite types of challenges?
I am not really a fan of challenges, honestly. If I had to describe a favorite type though, it would be those instances when something looks impossible – like a tangled ball of yarn – and yet with patience and focus there is a way to straighten it out.
Again, it is not a favorite type of challenge, but I do take great pride in working on a project with a team of people who seem at odds, only to discover through candor and honesty that their viewpoints aren’t so very far apart, and we can build something together. Those engagements can be exhausting, but the outcome is worth it.
What is one book that was meaningful or influential in your development as a leader?
During the pandemic I had stacks upon stacks of books, so I cannot choose just one. There were so many gems from each of these books that I will simply whet your appetite with salient quotes that I have returned to again and again.
- Lead from the Outside: How to Build Your Future and Make Real Change by Stacey Abrams: “The takeaway: the difficulty in catching up and moving forward isn’t all in your head. Systemic biases, legacy barriers, and current explosions of inequality conspire constantly to undermine wealth generation among minorities, especially women in these communities. But, as with all obstacles, our obligation is to acknowledge they exist and then fight like hell to subvert and circumvent them.”
- Untamed by Glennon Doyle: “We do not need more selfless women. What we need right now is more women who have detoxed themselves so completely from the world’s expectations that they are full of nothing but themselves. What we need are women who are full of themselves. A woman who is full of herself knows and trusts herself enough to say and do what must be done. She lets the rest burn.”
- The Purpose of Power: How We Come Together When We Fall Apart by Alicia Garza: “In a society where anti-Blackness is the fulcrum around which white supremacy functions, building multiracial organizations and movements without disrupting anti-Blackness in all of its forms is about as good for a movement as a bicycle is for a fish.”
- We Are Not Here to Be Bystanders: A Memoir of Love and Resistance by Linda Sarsour: “The secret to organizing, Basemah told me, was relationships. If you want people to come to an event you’re holding, you pick up the phone and invite them personally. You remember people’s birthdays, and those of their children.”
If there was a soundtrack of greatest hits related to your career, what would make the list?
Lauryn Hill’s “I Get Out” – This song applies to so many areas of my life and is a reminder to not settle, not become complacent, and not to conform in ways that don’t align with my values.
Jill Scott’s “Golden” – This song exudes joy to me. Joy is my birthright and I like that in my career choices I have had so many deeply transformative experiences that have brought me joy.
I’m taking my own freedom
Putting it in my song
Singing loud and strong
Grooving all day long
I’m taking my freedom
Putting it in my stroll
I’ll be high-steppin’ y’all
Letting the joy unfold
What is your approach to self-care? Are there any rituals you use to survive and thrive?
Prayer. My faith is an anchor and has become stronger since this panini showed up and wreaked havoc on the world. For the last year and a half, I have had weekly prayer calls with two college friends. It’s wonderful to see God working in our lives, especially in such a challenging season. I also joined Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and this sermon from Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III on March 7th changed my life.
Coaching. I am so fortunate to have the resources and the wisdom of not one, but two incredible coaches. Ian Esquibel and Idrissa Simmonds-Nastili are treasures who love and challenge me in equal parts.
Therapy has been a helpful container and process to work through issues I’ve tucked deep inside for 40+ years.
Cuisine and cocktails. Living in New Orleans gave me plenty of both and reminded me just how much I enjoy a tasty libation or new recipe. I experimented with veganism during the pandemic, but it didn’t catch in the long-term. I may give it another go because Tabitha Brown makes it look so fun.
What advice would you offer other Black women trying to develop or amplify their voice and become self-advocates?
In a world full of contradictions Black women shift between experiencing hypervisibility and invisibility. Oftentimes our style of leadership is contested, and we are asked to conform in white dominant spaces rather than exert the fullness of ourselves.
Choose yourself. Trust your intuition. Protect your peace. Sprinkle your glitter in the way that only you can.